Former UCLA faculty member donates $10 million for ocular genetics research

A gift from Bronwyn Bateman, MD, will establish the UCLA Bronwyn Bateman Center for Ocular Genetics at the Stein Eye Institute.

UCLA has received a $10 million commitment from Bronwyn Bateman, MD, to develop a center for ocular genetics at the UCLA Stein Eye Institute.
According to the university, Bateman’s gift will support research projects as well as the covering center's startup costs and greatest needs moving forward. Bateman is a former professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“As a long-standing partner of Stein Eye, Bronwyn has helped advance many of our vision programs,” said Bartly Mondino, MD, UCLA’s Bradley R. Straatsma, MD, Professor of ophthalmology and director of the Stein Eye Institute. “We are grateful for this contribution, which will help position UCLA at the forefront of ocular genetics research and accelerate interdisciplinary science, innovative medicine and new technologies to benefit patients worldwide.”

According to the university news release, the UCLA Bronwyn Bateman Center for Ocular Genetics will advance clinical and translational science in ocular genetics, which seeks to address the genetic components of ophthalmic disease. Researchers in the field study the patterns and risks of inheritance, ways to improve the diagnosis and prognosis of genetic abnormalities and new therapies to treat disease.

As a young resident at the Stein Eye Institute in the 1970s, Bateman was faced with tragedy. Her husband, Rory Smith, who was then a resident in orthopedics at UCLA, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He died after an 11-month battle with the disease, and Bateman credited her Stein Eye colleagues with providing a great sense of community for her during that very difficult time.

She also credits Mondino and Straatsma, the founding director of the Stein Eye Institute, with providing professional opportunities that proved pivotal in her career, and she is currently president of the Stein Eye Alumni Association. Her previous contributions to the institute include a gift to create an endowed faculty chair in her then-husband’s name to create a legacy he could not build for himself.

“It is an honor to support the genetics program for the UCLA Stein Eye Institute, a leader in ophthalmology,” Bateman said. “Genetics is the future of medicine, and this center will support the current ophthalmology genetics faculty and provide resources for growth.

“I had the pleasure of being an internal medicine resident in 1974, and my first husband, Rory, and I recognized the institutional integrity at UCLA,” Bateman said. “I also am indebted to Dr. Straatsma and Dr. Mondino for their personal and professional support.”

Through collaborations across the UCLA campus, the new center will leverage the study of ocular genetics and precision medicine in order to advance the field. It will complement UCLA Stein Eye Institute’s overall goals of preserving and restoring vision by preventing and treating eye disease, eradicating preventable blindness and training the next generation of exceptional vision specialists.